The 70s and 80s were the most amazing decades for horror movies. The scream became the primary focus of these terrifying films and the female leads put in the position to scream did a damn fine job. Let's look at some familiar actresses and their work in those decades.
*Descriptions of movies from my favorite movie site, IMDB.
Pamela FranklinAnd Soon the Darkness Two young English women go on a cycling tour of the French countryside. When one of them goes missing, the other begins to search for her. But who can she trust?
Pamela Franklin had the most meticulous British dialect, but also the big eyes and smooth-skinned look of a porcelain doll. She appeared quite vulnerable for the roles, but had an inner stubbornness that helped her characters survive, well, usually.
The Legend of Hell House Physicist Lionel Barrett and his wife lead a team of mediums into the Belasco House, which is supposedly haunted by the victims of its late owner, a six-foot-five serial killer.
The Food of the Gods A group of friends travel to a remote Canadian island to hunt, only to be attacked by giant killer animals which have populated the place.
It would seem from the lineup of horror movies Jamie Lee Curtis acted in, that she was the go-to girl for female-versus-man-in-a-mask movies. Jamie played a sassy, tomboyish, nerdish kind of role that made her gosh-darned likable for guys and gals. That kind of spirit made her the ideal candidate for a heroine up against evil. She didn't usually win by wits, but she was willing to put up a fight. And we were with her all the way, whether it was in the closet poking a wire hanger at Michael Myers or unmasking the killer at the senior prom.
Halloween Fifteen years after murdering his sister on Halloween night 1963, Michael Myers escapes from a mental hospital and returns to the small town of Haddonfield to kill again.
The Fog Legend says that Antonio Bay was built in 1880 with blood money obtained from shipwrecked lepers, which no one believes. On the eve of the town's centennial, many plan to attend the celebrations, including the murdered lepers.
Terror Train A masked killer targets six college kids responsible for a prank gone wrong three years earlier and who are currently throwing a large New Year's Eve costume party aboard a moving train.
Prom Night A masked killer stalks four teenagers, responsible for the accidental death of a little girl six years earlier, at their high school's senior prom.
Karen Black had a great combination of beauty and strength in her horror film roles. Her slightly off eyes and slightly edgy personality made her seem unpredictable. Was she courageous or was she insane? We never quite knew with her characters. She kind of reminded us of that friend who changed personalities when they drank. You went to a party with one person, left with someone quite unexpected.
Trilogy of Terror Three bizarre horror stories all of which star Karen Black in four different roles playing tormented women.
The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver A houswife, tired of her everyday routine, makes changes in her hair, her wardrobe and her makeup, and begins to take on the personality of a woman who had died five years earlier.
Burnt Offerings A family moves into an old, haunted house that regenerates itself by feeding off of the life forces of its injured occupants.
Sassy, defiant and sexy as hell; the hallmarks of Pam Grier and her roles. She played a woman with great resolve and determination and when she survived, she had earned it. Pam is perhaps one of the most sexy scream queens ever, but she balanced that with focus and courage.
Women in Cages American women prisoners in a foreign country. Sex and action.
The Twilight People A kidnapped diver is taken to an island inhabited by a mad scientist and his half-animal, half-human creations.
Scream Blacula Scream The vampire Mamuwalde (Blacula) is stirred by African voodoo, and is forced to kill again.
Margot KidderThe Amityville Horror Newlyweds move into a large house where a mass murder was committed, and experience strange manifestations which drive them away.
Margot made an idyllic level-headed heroine with a raspy sexy voice, a big toothpaste grin, and eyes that drew in all viewers. She had just enough vulnerability to keep us afraid for her safety, but enough anger within to determine she would overcome. Most of us just found her so girl-next-door that we could get caught up in her dilemmas with some genuine concern.
The Reincarnation of Peter Proud When college professor Peter Proud begins to experience flashbacks from a previous incarnation, he is mysteriously drawn to a place he has never been before but which is troublingly familiar. As if drawn to her by cosmic force, he soon finds himself unwittingly in the company of his previous incarnation's wife. This woman, Marcia Curtis, recognizes in Peter startling characteristics which he shares with her dead husband, Jeff. Even the sound of his voice seems at times to be that of the dead man. Peter becomes romantically drawn to Ann Curtis who is or was his daughter (Jeff and Marcia's daughter). Recognizing the incestuous nature of their relationship, Mrs. Curtis tries to keep the two young people apart. But how? Must she reveal the terrible secret of the final minutes she shared with her husband in order to keep this man from her (their?) daughter?
Black Christmas During their Christmas break, a group of sorority girls are stalked by a stranger.
Linda BlairThe Exorcist When a teenage girl is possessed by a mysterious entity, her mother seeks the help of two priests to save her daughter.
Linda Blair had that raspy Stevie Nicks voice, the big round eyes, tiny chin, and girlish curls to seem fragile, but her personality was such that she was a dog with a bone when it came to surviving. We cheered her on in her films because she could play the fine line between being a baby doll and a bull terrier.
Hell Night Four college pledges are forced to spend the night in a deserted old mansion, where they are stalked by the monstrous survivor of a family massacre years earlier.
The Chilling The bodies at a cryogenic center are defrosted by accident and turn into cannibalistic zombies.
Exorcist II: The Heretic: A teenage girl once possessed by a demon finds that it still lurks within her. Meanwhile, a priest investigates the death of the girl's exorcist.
The 1970s and 1980s allowed some actresses to break free and get lots of gigs with roles that asked a lot of their range from sweet and shy to screaming and kicking in one film. This was a gateway for many young actresses to get to the bigger gigs and more notoriety. And, many of these women did just that.
Hail to the scream queens of the horror era!